We feign outrage and denounce them as multi-millionaire whinging bullies, but don’t you just love a sporting spat? F1’s reigning world champion Fernando Alonso, and his championship-leading rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton, chucked their respective toys from the prams big-time in Hungary last weekend.

It started long before the circus touched down in Budapest, with double world champ Alonso openly unhappy about his joint number one status at McLaren this year and making no effort to speak to or even make eye-contact with his rookie colleague in their fleeting and forced handshakes when their paths crossed in the paddock. Hamilton has not played the expected role of talented but hapless rookie, grateful for a shot at The Big Time.

Instead, he has usurped Alonso’s position as the world’s foremost fast guy, and in doing so he’s become the unwelcome snatcher of Alonso’s world championship.

A half-season of tension finally combusted during Budapest qualifying, when Hamilton blankly and repeatedly ignored a radio call to move over and let Alonso past. It was a complex strategic requirement that concerned not podiums, points nor grid position, but Lewis simply refusing to swallow his pride and lift the throttle.

Hamilton, who mistakenly thought Dennis had ordered Alonso to hold him up in the pit-box during a crucial qualifying pit stop, expressed his displeasure to his boss in an entirely unrookie-like way: “Don’t ever fu-king do that to me again.”

Dennis: “Don’t fu-king talk to me like that.”

Hamilton: “You can go and fu-king swivel.”

In fact, Alonso had acted alone in extending his pit stop by eleven seconds; his faux question about tyre compounds robbing the impatiently queuing Hamilton of a shot at pole. FIA Stewards reacted by docking Alonso five grid places, and docking all potential points from McLaren, but only after a personal visit to Race Control by the livid Hamilton.

Alonso then vaguely described his teammate as a “saboteur” in his midst and issued a “Hamilton or me” ultimatum to team management via the Spanish press before boarding his private plane.

The standoff, starkly reminiscent of Ayrton Senna’s power struggle against Alain Prost in the late 1980s, left 60-year-old Dennis looking visibly haggard at 10pm on Sunday evening and reportedly on the verge of retirement. But such are the moments that, although sometimes unseemly, encapsulate sporting passion so well.

We remember 1989 and 1990 only because of the bile of the Prost-Senna battle and, again to Dennis’ chagrin, the way they drove into each other on purpose to achieve title glory. Click here and here for vision.

Only anoraks remember the winner of the 1998 Belgian grand prix — the rest of us recall Michael Schumacher storming into the McLaren garage to knock David Coulthard’s block off. We loathed him, but squinted with voyeuristic delight (and still do, thanks to Youtube) into the dark garage for a glimpse of a wildly flailing limb.

We also remember when Nelson Piquet launched a tsunami of kicks and punches at Eliseo Salazar following a coming-together at Hockenheim — watch it here.

And here is some video footage of our favourite racing spats:

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey